You need to provide chinchilla enrichment for your pet. Especially important is something for it to chew on, as if you don’t offer anything, your chinchilla will chew its cage bars and damage its teeth. So what should you give it?
You need to provide chinchilla enrichment for your pet. Especially important is something for it to chew on, as if you don’t offer anything, your chinchilla will chew its cage bars.
What can I give my chinchilla to chew on? Chinchillas need something tough but fibrous and natural to chew on so that their teeth stay healthy. Wild wood, untreated wooden toys and dried grape vines are all suitable. Bamboo, cardboard and plastic are not safe things for chinchillas to chew.
Once you’ve picked your ideal chinchilla chew toy, you can buy it in bulk so you always have some available. You can choose which chew toy to pick from our list below…
Can Chinchillas Have Chew Toys?
Chinchillas are rodents, which means they need to chew. They have special front teeth which continually grow, so teeth grinding is necessary to prevent them getting get too long. Excessively long front teeth cause health problems.
This isn’t something you have to do for your chinchilla. Instead, your pet can take care of its own teeth, so long as you give it a chew toy. Natural materials, particularly wood, are the best. If you don’t give your chinchilla something specific to chew, it will chew synthetic materials like its metal/plastic bottle.
Here is a table detailing what chinchillas can chew, how cheap it tends to be, and how suitable it is:
What can chinchillas chew on?
Price (out of 5)
7/10. Perfect as long as the wood is rid of parasites/fungus, and is of the right species. Kinds of safe wood for chinchillas include sycamore, ash and elm.
Free (from the wild), $ from pet stores
6/10. Suitable for chewing, but contains sap which gets in your chinchilla’s fur (unless thoroughly scrubbed before use).
0/10. These splinter into sharp pieces when chewed on, so are unsuitable.
5/10. Similar to wood but tougher. Have even sharper splinters, so while non-toxic, can still be dangerous.
7/10. Untreated (i.e. unpainted and with no glue) is suitable.
9/10. Hard-wearing and untreated. The only issue is that it’s harder to find than other chew toys. Also doesn’t splinter.
0/10. Causes impaction (blockages) in the chinchilla’s digestive tract.
0/10. Entirely indigestible and is of the wrong texture to gnaw on.
Most owners use wooden chew sticks from pet stores. These are fit for purpose, easy to find and cheap to buy. As for chinchillas, they prefer wood or sandblasted grape vines. Other options are more hit and miss, so your chinchilla may not like them.
1) Can Chinchillas Chew on Wood?
You can give your chinchilla wood from the wild to chew on. Wood is perfect because it is the right blend of solid and brittle: it is solid enough to wear down a chinchilla’s front teeth, but not so solid that it will crack them (like metal might). It’s also safe to ingest, either accidentally or on purpose.
However, you can’t give your chinchilla any wood that you find. There are two issues to be aware of. First, chinchillas are allergic to several kinds of wood. Second, the wood may contain fungi, bacteria, parasites or dirt.
As such, you have to take precautions when you offer your chinchilla natural wood. As a general rule, chinchillas are allergic to any wood that is oily like cedar and cherry.
Stick to safe woods like sycamore, ash and elm to avoid complications.
If you aren’t certain what kind of wood it is, don’t offer it to your chinchilla. When harvesting wood, take some that is still living, i.e. attached to the tree. This is less likely to be infested with parasites. Take a branch of a suitable size to fit in your chinchilla’s enclosure, or else the right size to break up. Pick a thin branch as these are easier to treat.
You can also buy suitable wood from pet stores in the form of chew sticks. These comes in large packs (e.g. 60 pieces or 100 pieces). They are checked to ensure that they’re free of fungus or parasites.
How to Treat Wild Wood for Chinchillas
To get rid of any fungi or bacteria in the wood, you have to treat it. There are two ways of doing that: boiling and heating in the oven. The heat of ‘cooking’ the wood will kill any parasite or other undesirable in the branch.
Break the wood into a size that will fit into a pot. Scrub it underneath a running faucet and leave it to soak in a bowl, replacing the water every five minutes until it’s clear. Then, place it in a boiling pot for 15-20 minutes.
Scrub the wood afterwards to remove the bark, exposing the wood underneath. No soap or other agents are required to clean the wood. Leave the wood to dry for a day before giving it to your chinchilla. If it’s easier, place the wood in the oven at a high heat instead of boiling it.
2) Can Chinchillas Chew Pine Cones?
Pine can be toxic for rodents, although many owners say that pine is fine for chins. But either way, this reputation doesn’t stretch to pine cones. Even in rodents which can’t gnaw pine, pine cones are non-toxic.
They make excellent chew toys when prepared correctly. They must be thoroughly scrubbed and boiled/roasted at high heat to get rid of all the sap inside. The sap isn’t toxic, but is difficult to get out of chinchilla fur. They also contain pine nuts, which your pet will enjoy.
3) Can Chinchillas Chew Popsicle Sticks?
Popsicle sticks are made of untreated wood. While they may have a small amount of leftover sugar on them, this isn’t bad for a chinchilla. So, you may think they’re the perfect free chew toy for your pet.
Unfortunately, popsicle sticks are made in such a way that they splinter easily. If you have ever chewed one, you’ll know that they form long, sharp splinters when broken from top to bottom.
If your chinchilla got one of these splinters in its mouth, it could hurt it. The splinter could even stick in place. Whether it does or not, it will leave behind a small wound which could become infected. At the least, it will cause your chinchilla discomfort and difficulty eating.
It’s better to avoid this eventuality, even if popsicle sticks are a free alternative to wooden chew sticks.
4) Can Chinchillas Chew on Bamboo?
Bamboo is not a kind of wood, although it is similar. Scientifically speaking, it is a kind of grass. Either way, it is non-toxic for chinchillas to chew on provided it doesn’t have paint or glue on it.
One issue you may think is relevant is that bamboo is exceedingly tough. However, it is not too tough for chinchillas to chew on. It won’t damage your chinchilla’s teeth if it chews on it.
What can happen, though, is that the bamboo can splinter. These splinters are exceedingly sharp and can hurt your chinchilla’s mouth. Damage to the mouth can dissuade a chinchilla from eating because of the pain. As such, owners avoid bamboo and stick to wood.
5) Can Chinchillas Chew on Wooden Toys?
Rather than being uncertain (e.g. on the species of wood, or whether all the fungus in the wood has been gotten rid of), most owners buy wooden toys instead. There are many available from generalist pet stores made of all kinds of wood.
But not all wooden toys are suitable for chinchillas. You must make sure that the toy is made of a suitable material, which should be specified on the packaging or label. Certain woods which aren’t suitable for chinchillas are still suitable for other pets, which is the reason for this issue.
Also, you must buy only untreated wooden toys. Some have paint or glue on them, which is unsuitable for your pet to ingest.
If you do buy a wooden toy, don’t expect it to stay in good condition for long. Chinchillas love to gnaw, so anything wooden in their enclosures is quickly ‘ruined’.
6) Can Chinchillas Chew on Grape Vines?
Dried fruit vines are similar to wood. Picture grape vines, for example: they are tough and fibrous, like wood is. They are like smaller vines that are still attached to grapes when you buy them, but bigger.
Large grape vines are sandblasted for use in the pet trade, either for caged pets to sit on or chew. Sandblasting removes the outer surface of the vine and dries it out. They look like gnarled old pieces of driftwood and can be found in pet stores.
Another positive is that grape vines don’t splinter like wood or bamboo. It’s fibrous and gnarled, not straight, which gives less opportunity for splinters to form. This means that a dried grape vine is the best chinchilla chew toy.
You can find these from most pet stores, or online. They are normally intended for other kinds of pet, but are suitable for chinchillas too.
7) Can Chinchillas Chew on Cardboard?
Cardboard is not suitable for chinchillas to chew on. Your chinchilla will happily chew on it, and won’t be immediately affected if it does. However, there are good reasons to avoid it.
The first is that the cardboard may be treated with something. It may have ink on it, for example, or glue/tape to hold it together. Your chinchilla can accidentally ingest some of what it gnaws on, so it’s best not to give it anything to chew that you wouldn’t want it to eat.
Cardboard can also cause impaction. Impaction is where a blockage forms in the chinchilla’s digestive tract. Cardboard is digestible, but not easily. As such, it can form a large blockage that the chinchilla can’t pass.
It is possible to give chinchillas cardboard so long as you monitor them. If the chinchilla starts to eat the cardboard rather than only gnawing it, then you can take it away. This applies to all card: corrugated cardboard, thin paper-like card, and mail packages.
8) Can Chinchillas Chew Plastic?
Chinchillas can easily chew through plastic, but it’s bad for them. Say, for example, you leave a plastic water bottle somewhere accessible in your pet’s cage. Your chinchilla could chew through it and break it quite quickly. There are also plastic chew toys you can buy for pets.
But plastic is an awful choice for a chinchilla chew toy. That’s because:
- Plastic is the wrong texture. It’s not fibrous enough, so when your chinchilla chews it, the plastic can misalign your pet’s teeth.
- Plastic is not suitable for ingestion. It can cause impaction like cardboard, and a variety of other health issues depending on the specific plastic ingested.
For this reason, chinchilla owners should not put anything plastic in their pets cages. Least of all they should put plastic chew toys.
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